Scotland’s Housing Crisis: Council House Construction Drops by 50% in a Year

The number of council houses being built in Scotland has fallen by half in just one year, according to the latest statistics from the Scottish Government. This alarming decline has raised concerns about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Brexit transition on the housing sector, as well as the ability of the government to meet its ambitious targets for affordable and social housing.

Covid-19 and Brexit: A Double Blow for the Housing Sector

The Scottish Government’s Housing Statistics for Scotland 2023 show that the total number of new homes completed in Scotland in the year to June 2023 was 16,910, a decrease of 12% compared to the previous year. However, the most significant drop was in the public sector, where the number of new homes completed fell by 50%, from 8,405 to 4,195. This includes council houses, housing association homes, and other social rented properties.

The main reasons for this sharp decline are the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Brexit transition, which have affected the supply of materials, labour, and funding for the housing sector. The pandemic has also resulted in delays and cancellations of construction projects, as well as increased costs and reduced demand for new homes. The Brexit transition has added further uncertainty and complexity to the housing market, as the UK has left the EU single market and customs union, and has negotiated new trade deals and regulations with other countries.

The Impact of the Housing Shortage on the Scottish People

The shortage of council houses and other affordable and social housing options has serious consequences for the Scottish people, especially those who are on low incomes, homeless, or in housing need. According to the latest figures from Shelter Scotland, there are 37,100 households on the waiting list for a council house in Scotland, and 14,151 households in temporary accommodation. The average waiting time for a council house is 18 months, and some people have been waiting for more than 10 years.

 Council House Construction Drops by 50% in a Year

The lack of affordable and social housing also contributes to the problem of homelessness, which has increased by 4% in the year to March 2023, according to the Scottish Government. There were 31,333 applications for homelessness assistance in that period, and 28,310 households were assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness. The main causes of homelessness were relationship breakdown, eviction, and financial difficulties.

The housing crisis also affects the quality of life and well-being of the Scottish people, as many people are living in overcrowded, damp, or unsafe conditions, or are spending a large proportion of their income on rent or mortgage payments. According to the Scottish Household Survey 2022, 12% of households in Scotland were living in overcrowded conditions, 9% were living in damp or mouldy homes, and 25% were spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs.

The Scottish Government’s Response and Future Plans

The Scottish Government has acknowledged the challenges facing the housing sector and has pledged to take action to address them. The Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart, said: “We recognise the impact that Covid-19 and Brexit have had on the housing sector and we are working closely with our partners to support the recovery and resilience of the industry. We are also committed to delivering our ambitious target of 100,000 affordable homes by 2032, of which 70% will be for social rent. This will provide high-quality, energy-efficient, and accessible homes for the people of Scotland, as well as creating jobs and boosting the economy.”

The Scottish Government has also announced a range of measures and initiatives to support the housing sector and the people in housing need, such as:

  • Providing an additional £200 million of funding for the Affordable Housing Supply Programme in 2023-24, bringing the total budget to £843 million.
  • Extending the Help to Buy scheme until March 2024, which offers equity loans of up to 15% of the purchase price of a new-build home.
  • Launching the First Home Fund, which offers interest-free loans of up to £25,000 for first-time buyers to help with the deposit and other costs of buying a home.
  • Introducing the Tenant Hardship Loan Fund, which offers interest-free loans of up to £3,000 for private and social tenants who are struggling to pay their rent due to the pandemic.
  • Implementing the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, which aims to prevent and reduce homelessness, and ensure that everyone has a safe and secure home.

The Reaction of the Housing Sector and the Opposition Parties

The housing sector and the opposition parties have welcomed some of the Scottish Government’s actions and plans, but have also criticised them for being insufficient, delayed, or unrealistic. They have called for more investment, collaboration, and innovation to tackle the housing crisis and meet the needs and aspirations of the Scottish people.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), which represents over 130 housing associations and co-operatives in Scotland, said: “We are pleased that the Scottish Government has recognised the importance of affordable housing and has increased the funding for the Affordable Housing Supply Programme. However, we are concerned that the target of 100,000 affordable homes by 2032 is not ambitious enough, and that the current funding levels are not adequate to deliver it. We urge the Scottish Government to work with us and our members to develop a long-term, strategic, and sustainable plan for the housing sector, which will ensure that everyone in Scotland has a home that they can afford and that meets their needs.”

The Scottish Labour Party, which is the main opposition party in the Scottish Parliament, said: “The Scottish Government has failed to deliver on its promises and has let down the people of Scotland who are in desperate need of a decent home. The number of council houses being built in Scotland has plummeted by half in just one year, which is a disgrace and a scandal. The Scottish Government must urgently increase the funding and support for the housing sector, and prioritise the building of more council and social homes, which are the most effective and sustainable way of tackling the housing crisis and reducing inequality and poverty.”

The Scottish Conservative Party, which is the second-largest opposition party in the Scottish Parliament, said: “The Scottish Government has wasted the opportunities and resources that it has to address the housing crisis and has failed to deliver the homes that the people of Scotland need and deserve. The number of council houses being built in Scotland has fallen by half in just one year, which is a clear sign of the incompetence and mismanagement of the SNP. The Scottish Government must stop blaming Covid-19 and Brexit for its failures, and start taking action to support the housing sector and the people in housing need. The Scottish Government must also work with the UK Government and other partners to maximise the benefits of the UK Internal Market and the new trade deals, which will create more opportunities and growth for the housing sector and the economy.”

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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